1. How will OUSD make sure all families are taking the necessary safety precautions?
We must rely on our families to do the right thing. For any student reporting to In-Person instruction, parents should screen the student for symptoms before sending them to school. Any student with a cough, trouble breathing, fever, experiencing a loss of taste or smell, or who is not feeling well, must be kept at home.
Students will be screened upon arrival at school. Any student found to have symptoms will be isolated and sent home.
2. Who is setting the guidelines?
OUSD is not creating guidelines. During the pandemic, OUSD is legally and ethically obligated to follow the guidance supplied by the Glenn County Public Health Department and the California Health Department. We are using the recommendations they put forward to formulate our procedures and protocols. Any form of in-person interaction creates some measure of elevated risk. We cannot guarantee 100% that the virus will not be present on campus, but we will do our best to prevent infection and spread.
3. Why are some nearby schools open when OUSD is not?
This is a more complex question than one might expect. Back when the state was using the County Watchlist approach, some of our neighboring counties were not on the watchlist. They were allowed to open for in-person instruction. Once open, the guidance documents say that schools cannot be closed again unless they have more than 5% of the students & staff positive. Those districts can operate until 25% of their schools are closed; at which point the entire district goes on distance learning for 14 days.
While we are not separated by a very long distance, the rate of infection in those communities is much lower. Tehama County has twice our population, but the Covid Positivity rate is one-third that of Glenn County. Shasta County has six times our population, but they are seeing 2.5 new positive cases per day, and our rate is 5.9 positive cases each day. Obviously, the virus is more widespread among our community, and it is logical that our approach to school must be different in order to keep everyone safe and limit the spread.
4. Which students will be considered At – Risk and therefore eligible for in-person classes?
Special Education students, Students with a 504 plan, English Learners, Spanish Learners, students with elevated Social/Emotional needs, students who are significantly below grade level in English or Math, and those students who are currently failing classes.
Obviously, this includes the vast majority of our students. We are working as quickly as possible to get each group some measure of in-person support. However, the restrictions imposed based on Glenn County being in the purple tier will make it difficult for us to serve all those students in the cohorts of 16. Additionally, bringing all the students back at one time would increase the risk of infection for everyone.
5. Which students will be served in person when our waivers are approved?
All students in grades TK-6 can be served under the waivers. At Risk students in grades 7-12 will continue to be served.
6. Why were other district’s waivers granted and ours not?
Our waiver request was submitted a few days after theirs. In that short amount of time Glenn County’s positivity rate and daily number of cases increased significantly. The state directed Glenn County Public Health to stop approving waivers until the rates begin to trend downward. Our staff have been working very hard to find solutions to all the problems presented by reopening. Comparing OUSD to our neighbors is apples to oranges. Larger systems present exponentially more complex problems.
7. Many parents want to just totally reopen the schools. Why is OUSD not following the wish of the majority?
There are many reasons OUSD cannot simply reopen. First, we would be exposing students, staff and families to an unsafe situation. Second, there may be legal penalties for districts who do not follow the guidance. Third, there are liability issues which might expose the district to heavy financial penalties. Finally, a total reopening would likely lead to another shutdown. That would create even more chaos and instability for our students.
We understand that many parents are willing to take those risks. However, the job of school leadership is to make the best decision possible using reliable information. And all indicators are that our current plan of a phased reopening presents the best chance to bring students back in a safe, legal and effective way.
8. When will parents be notified of in-person schedules?
Schools will contact parents when the schedules are finalized and preparations in place. Again, we are working as quickly as possible to accomplish this goal. Parents are encouraged to contact their student’s school site with specific questions.
9. Daycares are open and operating; how is that allowed?
The guidance for daycares is different than the guidance for schools.
11. Why do the waiver schedules have students attending in the afternoon?
We know that engaging students via Distance Learning is difficult. The best engagement in DL comes from those “Live” classes when the teacher and students are online together. It also happens when students are most alert and least distracted; which is early in the day. Teachers will need to keep providing DL for all students. Our thinking is that students who are scheduled in the afternoon will get more out of the in-person session, and the DL session if we have keep the live sessions going in the morning.
12. Why not let groups of students come for a majority of the day?
The guidance suggests that keeping exposure time short reduces the chance of spread. Simply put, the longer students are together in person, the higher the risk of spread. We are following the Centers for Disease Control recommendations on both group size and duration of in person classes.
Here is a link to the CDC web site explaining the rational behind the guidance:
(Also see #10 above.)
13. Won’t a partial day schedule be difficult for working parents?
Yes. No question there may be families who cannot make this work. Hopefully, working parents can find friends or family members to transport students to or from school.
14. Why not bus the students?
Initially, our concern was the lack of ability to distance students riding on the bus. After hearing the concerns at the community meeting and board meeting, we are re-thinking. If we do run buses, parents will need to consider the elevated risk their student will be facing by riding on a bus.
15. If a parent is not comfortable sending their student to school for in-person instruction, what happens?
The student remains enrolled for Distance Learning instruction as usual. They may notice some changes to the schedule or frequency of recorded lessons and teacher office hours. However, they will still be able to get instruction virtually.
16. The District is considering making parents chose to keep their student in Distance Learning for the remainder of the fall semester. Why?
How we assign and schedule teachers and staff depends on how many parents want Distance Learning. At some point, if we don’t limit the options to choose, we will have constantly fluctuating class sizes at all the grade levels. This will create constant changes to the class composition and schedules. We think it better to, at some point soon, create a consistent structure for the students. Then at semester, we can re-evaluate. If parents change their minds, we can re-shuffle our staffing and schedule, and again have consistency for the students for the remainder of the year.
17. When will we get back to normal?
At the national level the experts are predicting that the Covid pandemic will last well into 2021. That matches what our local Health Department officials are saying. Those predictions are why our plans include considerations of the possible need to shift form in-person to distance learning. We hope that this will not be necessary, but if it is, we will be ready.
18. What can parents do to help?
Remain focused on doing the best you can for your student’s education. Be clear with your child that education is important, and necessary, even in difficult times. Communicate often with your child’s teacher, and share ideas with your school or district leaders. Do your part to model appropriate behavior in slowing the spread. Finally, stay positive; as with every tough situation, a positive outlook may well make the difference between success and failure.